Plot: What’s it about?
Luc Besson, in his brief but hopefully growing career, has given us some of the more interesting movies out there. Besson gained worldwide attention with 1994’s “The Professional” better-known around the world as “Leon: The Professional”. He followed that up with the very scenic, if not surreal, “The Fifth Element” and has most recently graced us with “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”. I’m guessing here, but I think I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that Besson likes his heroines to face almost impossible odds and likes them frizzy-haired! For all the notoriety that The Professional garnered, it was preceded by La Femme Nikita. La Femme Nikita was popular enough to spawn a television series after it (though it was terrible), and thrust Besson into the spotlight. While this is the essential to The Point of No Return (starring Bridget Fonda), I happened to like this “French” version a lot better. In fact, it’s well-known that the French have had several movies that have been remade over here in “the states” to greater financial success. Sommersby, Three Men and a Baby and The Talented Mr. Ripley are only a few of the more recent examples.
Nikita (Anne Parrillaut) starts out as part of a gang that gets caught while robbing a store. After a bloody shoot-out ensues, it’s Nikita who takes the life of a police officer and is sentenced to death at the mere age of 19. Here, and right here, is where the film takes an abrupt turn. The outside world is led to believe that the sentence was carried out and that Nikita is dead at the hands of the state. As it turns out, she is in the hands of the state, but she has been “recruited” to be trained as an assassin for the government. Nikita, very brash and ignorant of any type of authority, immediately revokes any semblance of someone telling her what to do. Of course, she doesn’t have any idea that during her training, her life is constantly in danger. As time progresses, she eventually learns to “play ball” and proceeds with her training, under the leadership of her instructor and mentor (Marc Duret). After passing an interesting final test, she is ready to begin her new life out in the open. She has been locked up in a pseudo-prision for a number of years. What happens with Nikita is that she gets back into the swing of life. Nikita forms, almost instantly, a romantic relationship with a local man. This presents her with a problem when the government will come calling, asking her to perform her duties as an assassin (and they do).
You see, Nikita has to kill a certain number of people for the government; otherwise her own life is in danger. She is the ultimate assassin, beautiful and innocent…but deadly. Her romance with her previous mentor comes up in her new life, as she has taken what they have given her (a renewed lease on life) and put it to good use. Unlike “The Terminator” or any of the other senseless violence movies, La Femme Nikita concentrates on the complexity of life and makes it into a great action movie as well. Hardly any, if no, special effects are used but the movie flows like a river. We see Nikita as a person, and not the brutal assassin that she has been taught to be. Though there are scenes in which she kills, I still don’t associate this movie with anything “bad”. While the ending is criticized for being a very “French” ending, or not satisfying, I think it’s perfect. If you’re a fan of any or all (most likely all) of Besson’s movies, then La Femme Nikita is the place to start. On a final note, the movie did inspire a cult TV show by the same name, it ran five seasons from 1997-2001.
Video: How does it look?
“La Femme Nikita” is nearing twenty years old and for a film of this age, it does look pretty good. The movie had some ups and downs on standard DVD with MGM finally giving us an anamorphic transfer after the initial offering. Sony has gone and given the film another makeover and this 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer does make vast improvements over the old DVD. Besson’s visuals speak for themselves and like “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element” after this, it’s sometimes literally poetry in motion in terms of what’s going on-screen. Black levels are right on the target and aside from some grain on the print and a few scenes that seemed a bit too dark, “La Femme Nikita” looks pretty darn good on Blu-ray. I was particularly impressed with the detail, which is bumped up but not to the point where it looks artificial. There are certainly better and cleaner discs out there, but considering where this film came from, it looks top notch.
Audio: How does it sound?
This movie is French (obviously) and Sony has wisely provided us with not one, but two Dolby TrueHD tracks one in French and the other in English. I do recall watching the film on standard DVD nearly 9 years ago and the French version is the version to watch (or listen to, rather) as the sound has a more natural feel to it and the dubbed American voices don’t interfere with the flow of the movie. That said, I did listen to the English TrueHD track and though the surround effects are the same, it just doesn’t feel the same. The soundtrack does have a few good moments, but this is essentially a dialogue-driven movie. Kudos to Sony for giving us the dual TrueHD tracks though, a nice touch.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Unfortunately, this disc has no extras not even a trailer.